Prologue of Ohrid

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October 24

1. THE HOLY MARTYR ARETHAS

This holy martyr suffered for the Christian Faith with over four thousand Christians-priests, monks and nuns, men, women and children. Arethas was the eparch in the town of Nagran, in the southern Arabian land of Omir. He was ninety-five years old when he suffered. Dunaan, a cruel Jewish persecutor of Christians, then governed Omir. Determined to eradicate all Christians from his land, he surrounded the Christian town of Nagran, and sent a message to the people saying he would put them all to death unless they renounced Christ. The citizens closed the gates, and Dunaan attacked the city wall for a long time without success. Then the iniquitous governor swore to the citizens that he would do nothing to them, if only they would open the gate for him to enter and receive the tribute that they owed him-and that he would take it and immediately withdraw. The Christians believed him and opened the gate. Then the oath-breaking Jew summoned the aged Arethas, the clergy and other distinguished citizens and beheaded them all with the sword. He then perpetrated a horrible slaughter in the town. Learning of this, the Byzantine Emperor Justin was greatly grieved, and wrote a letter to the Ethiopian Emperor, Elesbaan, requesting him to set out with an army against Dunaan to avenge the innocent blood of the Christians. Elesbaan obeyed Justin, attacked the governor of Omir with his army, defeated him, slew his entire army, and beheaded him. By a revelation from God, a certain devout man named Abramius was installed as governor of Omir, and again by God's revelation, St. Gregory of Omir (December 19) was installed as archbishop. Christians rebuilt the Church of the Holy Trinity in Nagran that Dunaan had burned, and also built a church to the Holy Martyr Arethas and the other martyrs of Nagran. St. Arethas and the others suffered and received martyr's wreaths from the Lord in the year 523.

2. SAINT ELESBAAN, KING OF ETHIOPIA

Inflamed with zeal for the Christian Faith, this pious king raised an army against the governor Dunaan, the wicked persecutor of Christians in the land of Omir. However, at the battle's outset, Elesbaan had little success and much of his army perished in the arid desert. He then wept bitterly before God, and vowed to become a monk if God would help him conquer the mortal enemy of Christianity. Defeating Dunaan, Elesbaan returned to Ethiopia, immediately left the imperial court and entered a monastery, where he lived a strict life of asceticism as a true monk for fifteen full years. God endowed him with the grace of miracle-working before and after his death. He entered into rest in the year 555.

3. THE ICON OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS, "JOY OF ALL WHO SORROW"

This name is given to one of the wonderworking icons of the Most-holy Theotokos. On this day the icon is celebrated for the miraculous healing in Moscow, of Euphemia, the sister of Patriarch Joachim, in the year 1688. Euphemia had a serious wound in the side and as the doctors failed in their treatments, she prayed with tears to the Most-holy Theotokos. Then, she heard a voice: "Euphemia, go to the Church of the Transfiguration of my Son; there you will find the icon, 'Joy of All Who Sorrow.' Have the priest pray for you before this icon and you will be healed.'' Euphemia did so, and was immediately made well.

4. The Venerable Arethas of the Monastery of the Kiev Caves

He reposed in the year 1190. (See "Reflection'' below.)

HYMN OF PRAISE
 
TO THE ICON OF THE MOST-HOLY THEOTOKOS, "JOY OF ALL WHO SORROW"

O Most-holy Mother of God, "Joy of All Who Sorrow,''
 
Grant thy mercy to us sinners.
 
Thy Son now sits on the throne of the Eternal Kingdom,
 
And all our troubles thou seest; thou knowest them as they occur.
 
Thou hast always prayed to Christ God for the faithful,
 
And hast relieved much pain and misery of the sorrowful.
 
O Holy Virgin, never cease, to the end of time,
 
To pray for the salvation of our race.
 
God hast made thee even more glorious than the Seraphim: 
 
O hasten to us, O Joy of all who sorrow!

REFLECTION

When a consecrated person commits a transgression, a greater punishment awaits him than awaits a layman, less enlightened in the mystery of the will of God than he, who commits the same sin. St. Arethas was a monk in the Monastery of the Kiev Caves, and was very avaricious. He would give nothing to anyone of the piles of possessions in his cell, not even a kopeck. But once, he became very seriously ill and saw, as if in a vision, devils snatching his soul from the angels, screaming, "He is ours, he is ours!'' and citing as their proof Arethas's greed and miserliness. Upon his recovery Arethas amended his life, and from then on counted all earthly goods as nothing. Our benevolent God forgave him, and later endowed him with abundant grace.

Again, in the monastery where the blessed Emperor Elesbaan reposed, a monk developed the habit of visiting a tavern often, getting drunk there, and even committing immoral acts with women. One day, returning from the tavern, a terrifyingly huge snake began chasing him and gained on him rapidly. In great torment and anguish, the monk cried out: "Depart from me, as you would from the holy and righteous Elesbaan!'' Suddenly, the snake stopped. And the monk heard as it were a human voice from the serpent: "An angel of God commanded me to consume you because of your impurity and foulness, for you vowed to serve God in purity, but now you soil your body and anger the Holy Spirit.'' The monk vowed never to sin again, returned to the monastery, and sinned no more up to his death. Thus, God rebuked, and showed mercy, by the prayers of the Holy Emperor Elesbaan.

CONTEMPLATION

Contemplate Cornelius the Centurion's wondrous visitation by the angel of God (Acts 10):

1. How, though it was daytime, Cornelius saw in a vision an angel of God who called him by name;

2. How Cornelius was afraid and replied, What is it, Lord?

3. How the angel instructed him to send to Joppa for the Apostle Peter, who would speak to him the words of salvation.

HOMILY

on the clear coming of God

Our God shall come and shall not keep silent (Psalm 50:3).

The vocation of a commander is different than the vocation of a judge. The commander does not show himself to his enemy immediately, but allows his enemy to think whatever he wants about him; for the main purpose of the commander is to conquer. The judge, however, immediately shows himself to those whom he has to judge. 

Then, too, the vocation of a teacher is different than the vocation of a judge. For the teacher, the main purpose is to teach his pupils. That is why he often lowers himself to the level of his students and speaks to them as their friend. A judge, however, from beginning to end, is bound to show himself as nothing other than a judge. 

The vocation of a physician is different than the vocation of a judge, and the difference in these two vocations can be compared as in the first two instances cited above. 

Brethren, God appeared to the world in the body of a man. He appeared as a Commander, as a Teacher and as a Physician, but He has not yet appeared as a Judge. In the first instance, He chose to remain silent, and not to openly express His greatest dignity, but rather left His enemies, His pupils and His patients to make their judgments about Him from what they knew. Those who had sound judgment would know Him as God in the flesh by the evidence of His words and by His deeds, by His love for mankind and by the heavenly signs at His birth, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. However, those whose minds were darkened by evil passion would not recognize Him or acknowledge Him as God. But when He comes as Judge, then no one will ask "Art Thou He?'' or "Who art Thou?'' because everyone will know, without any doubt, Who He is. The angels will blow their trumpets before Him; His Cross will shine in the heavens before Him: A fire goes before Him and burns up His enemies round about (Psalm 97:3). Then both the believers and the unbelievers, the righteous and the unrighteous, will recognize the Judge. Then, only they who recognized Him beforehand as God, in the cave and on the Cross, will rejoice. Truly, they will rejoice: for they shall recognize in the Judge Him for Whom they waged war, Him from Whom they learned, and Him by Whom they were healed.

O Most-glorious Savior, have mercy on us and set us aright before Thy Second Coming.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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